Reviewed by: Hillari Hunter
This film is based on the true story of Roberta Guaspari, a music teacher in New York. When the movie opens, she has recently moved herself and her two sons in with her mother, after her marriage fails. Roberta (Meryl Streep) takes her limited teaching experience and pitches a violin class to a skeptical principal (Angela Bassett). After proving how well she’s taught her young sons the instrument, Roberta is given a chance. It is slow going at first, as Roberta has to deal with inattentive students, and disapproving parents and fellow teachers.
One African-American parent snaps that her son has better things to do than learn “dead white men’s music,” even though her son lights up while he’s taking his music lessons. The violin program grows so much in popularity that kids have to enter a lottery to get a chance to get into it. When the program is cut due to the insensitive school system, Roberta fights back.
This is a satisfying “feel-good” movie that has very little that would be offensive to Christian audiences. There is an off-camera scene where the still-married Roberta (her divorce having not gone through yet) sleeps with an old schoolmate (Aidan Quinn). Also, a teacher who becomes her ally (Gloria Estefan) uses a derogatory term to refer to another teacher. However, the movie does a good job presenting Roberta as a likeable underdog whose love for her students always is apparent, even when she’s admonishing them for not practicing enough.
Several of the kids, some of whom are students of the program in reality, are adorable and do a good job in their respective parts. “Music of the Heart” has a solid message to never give up on a good cause.
Year of Release—1999